Dr. Geoffrey Miller and Tucker Max have teamed up to write a comprehensive guy’s guide to dating and mating. The book Mate: Become The Man Women Want is unique in its content and approach. In a sea of pick-up artist nonsense and bullshit internet advice, Mate stands out as science based, ethical and effective.
It’s a refreshing angle, to tell young men that if they want to get better with women they need to make themselves better. There’s no trickery or games. The concept is: develop yourself and subsequently become more attractive. There is a ton of focus on how to understand and connect with women as people, rather than as goals or accomplishments. And what I really love about the books approach is that it promotes a win-win scenario. Happier men, happier women, happier relationships.
The authors have very different backgrounds, which I think perfectly captures why the book is what it is.
Dr. Miller, PhD, is a respected evolutionary psychologist, popular science author, professor and researcher. Tucker Max, whilst also an author, rose to fame through his humorous recollections of his own adventures in drinking and fucking, rather than through papers about the role of mate choice in biocomputation.
However both men have a deep knowledge and understanding of evolutionary psychology and how theories apply to real life human sexuality and relationships.
I’ve been listening to the book’s accompanying podcast The Mating Grounds for a few months and have been enjoying the approach that Tucker and Geoffrey have developed. The podcast has a few differing formats that vary week to week. There are Q&A podcasts, series of ‘Understanding Women’, ‘How to Be Attractive to Women’, and ‘Bad Advice from the Internet’ podcasts, interviews with experts, and my personal favourite; the ‘Helping Joe’ episodes, where we follow the journey of a guy called Joe as he tries to become more successful with women.
If the book is anything like the podcast, it will be a great, informative read for all. I fully endorse any science and evidence based writing on sex and relationships, but I am especially happy to spread the word about a book that aims to make more attractive men.
I had a little chat with Dr. Miller about the book and the podcast.
A chat with Dr. Geoffrey Miller
Can you give just an outline of the book and what’s different about it?
The basic concept behind Mate is Tucker Max and I wanted to write the book that we would have loved to have in high school when we were trying to figure out girls and sex and dating and how to become more attractive.
There are a lot of books and eBooks and pick up artist training materials and all that stuff out there, but we weren’t happy with most of it, either at the level of it being empirically accurate, or at the level of the kind of moral world view that a lot of that stuff was promoting. So we wanted to do something more kind of radically honest and that would really help not just young men but also be a win-win for young women as well. Because at the moment it seems like the dating scene is a frustrating mess for a lot of people.
Guys just aren’t being very effective and women are trying to communicate what they want but it isn’t always expressed in a way that guys understand. So we wanted to write a book by guys for guys in a language that would be accessible to ordinary young dudes BUT that was science based, actionable and moral.
On the podcast you get quite specific about some of the modern ways in which people date. You get in to Tinder profiles and all of that. Do you touch on that stuff in the book?
Yeah there’s a lot on issues like how to choose a ‘mating market’, which is where you live, where you hang out, where you try to meet women and make friends. And there’s quite a bit about online dating. How to do it, how to choose photographs, how to set up a profile, what to look for in women, and there’s even also a little bit on speed dating. We try to cover the modern dating technologies as they’re actually used by people.
I was curious about how you’ve chaptered the book. What are the main topics and areas that you’ve decided to tackle.
The structure is that there’s 5 parts (that we call 5 steps). Part 1 is sort of clearing away any misconceptions, it’s getting your head straight, and it talks about issues like confidence, how to understand a women’s point of view in terms of woman's experience of dating.
A lot of young guys don’t do any perspective taking and they never ask themselves ‘what do I offer to a woman?’ and ‘what are her concerns, and fears, and anxieties? And hopes and aspirations?’ So part one is about getting your head straight.
Step 2 is about the specific traits that women tend to look for when they’re choosing male mates.
Step 3 is about what we call proofs, like social proof, material proof, aesthetic proof, and romantic proof. Which is kind of how you demonstrate those traits in a reliable way to women.
Step 4 is about sort of where to go to find women. And that ranges all the way from where to move physically at the level of cities, where to go to school, etc., to things like how to use your friendship network or even social media networks to meet women.
And then step 5 is about taking action and how to actually develop a ‘mating plan’ as we call it. Which is basically how to get your life together in a way that’s going to appeal to women. And then how exactly to go on dates, there’s some advice on how to have sex. And then there’s a final chapter on how to keep getting better and get feedback.
And the basic traits that we cover; physical health, mental health, intelligence, will power, and what we call the ‘tender defender’ abilities. Which is sort of a combination of being kind but also assertive.
Why do you think this book is needed, in this much detail? Why do you think that boys don’t have this information already?
I think partly it’s that my field (evolutionary psychology) just hasn’t bothered to write this book before. There are some really good popular science books on evolutionary psychology that are a bit focused on sex. David Buss has done several. But they’re not specific advice books. They’re not about modern dating and exactly what to do based on Darwinian insights. I don’t think anyone has done anything quite like this before, where we’re smuggling in a lot of evolutionary psychology wisdom and findings, but translating it so that we hope even high school guys can get it and know what to do with it.
How did you and Tucker work on it together?
There was a lot of me doing drafts, and him doing drafts, and us giving feedback to each other, editing each other. Every chapter went through many rounds of him and me, and also (our third co-author) Nils Parker. It was a lot of work to get a uniform voice and style, but I think we achieved that.
Your background in evolutionary psychology means that you can bring all of the theories and research, and then was it Tucker who translated it into real life dating application?
I think we both contributed a lot. I’ve worked in the field for 25 years, and I’ve taught human sexuality for a long time, and so I’m kind of used to translating a lot of these insights in ways that are accessible at least to college students. In my teaching that’s what I do, but I haven’t written things in that style before.
And then Tucker himself has read an awful lot of evolutionary psychology and biology and animal behaviour, and knows way more about it than I would say even the average evolutionary psychology PhD student. So he’s also pretty familiar with a lot of the big ideas, and has been for at least 10 or 15 years probably. So he’s had quite a bit of experience thinking about these issues and applying it in his own dating life, as have I, so it’s not like I had a monopoly on the academic stuff and he had a monopoly on the practical stuff. It was more like 60/40 each.
With the Q&A podcasts have you noticed a running theme in the questions that you receive?
The most striking thing we learned from the start was that young men don’t take young women’s perspective on things. They’re really bad at perspective taking. A lot of their questions if they just put themselves in the mind-set or lived experience of women, almost answer themselves. So a lot of the questions that we answered we’re just trying to lay out: look dudes, here’s what it’s like from the woman’s point of view. And that’s exactly why we wrote a whole chapter on that so close to the beginning of the book. It was like oh my god these guys just don’t know what it’s like to be a woman and that’s a real handicap for them.
Why do you think it is that girls just seem to be able to do that automatically and boys don’t? Do you think that’s just how we've evolved?
Yeah I think there’s a huge sex difference. Women spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what’s going through guys heads. What did that text mean that he sent me? Here’s how he acted on that date, how do I interpret that? And guys just tend to objectify women more on average apparently. Which means specifically that they see women as bodies they want, or charming creatures that are kind of puzzling, but they don’t really get inside of women’s heads very much.
It’s kind of surprising because you would think evolution would have made men better at that.
Yeah this is my problem. Seems like a bad bit of evolution there.
Yeah apparently evolution does kind of fail sometimes, and I think this might be a case of that. Or another suspicion I have is that our male ancestors might have been better at this ten thousand years ago, but then the pressures of economic competition, civilisation, warfare… might have selected guys who are just more aggressive and oblivious to women’s interests. And that happened fairly recently, so that we’re the descendants of conquerors who weren’t that concerned about women’s thoughts and feelings. By contrast maybe hunter gather guys on average are a little bit better attuned to women’s lived experience. But that’s speculative.
It’s interesting though. Because that’s what I find all the time, whenever I get a question from a guy it almost always leaves me like ‘why didn’t they just understand that from the beginning?’
I think also women aren’t that good at explaining their lives and preferences to guys. No doubt they’re good at just implicitly understanding each other, but guys’ need things explained more clearly and bluntly and unambiguously. And often in simpler ways. And I don’t think women tend to want to do that because it’s almost like women sort of test guys social intelligence. And when they don’t just get it, it’s almost not even worth explaining it to them.
One way we explain it to guys, is that women evolved to be a little bit more complicated and tricky than guys can understand very easily. I mean that’s how women kind of protect themselves from being exploited and manipulated, is by being a little bit puzzling and baffling.
How long have you been doing the podcast now?
It’s been about 12 months now. We started last summer. And I think we’ve released a couple of hundred episodes by now.
I think I’ve listened to quite a lot of those couple hundred. My favourite is the Helping Joe episodes. How long have you been doing those for now?
I think Tucker and Joe started that about 5 months ago. I think they’re up to about 24 episodes now. The cool thing about that is just heavy focus on one guy, but who’s quite representative of our listeners, and then following his progress over time, week to week. And being able to hear about specific dates he’s been on, and things that he’s done right or wrong. That’s proven really valuable to a lot of guys, to be able to listen and be inspired by Joe’s progress, which has been extraordinary.
Do you ever hear from female listeners?
We get some emails from women and the occasional question from a woman. We haven’t answered one yet, because we’re not quite sure how to fit that into the format that we have. We certainly think that the book’s going to sell well with women as well as men.
I’ve found listening to the podcast as a "lady" is quite interesting because you get inside guy’s minds in a way you haven’t been able to before. I don’t think women know that guys worry about all these kinds of things.
Yeah guys ask us a lot of pretty sensitive questions, even things like premature ejaculation, or erectile dysfunction, or STDs, or embarrassment about being short, or poor, or having serious diseases like cerebral palsy. And they would never actually ask the same questions to their female friends or even a female advice columnist about some of that stuff.
But they’ll ask us because, although we’ll bust the guys balls a lot if they call and come across as a little narcissistic or arrogant, we also try to be really a safe space and warm and accepting for guys with serious problems. So I think that builds trust and confidence if guys call and have a question about a sensitive topic, we’ll treat it respectfully (after the first few minutes of making fun of them).
I think it would be valuable for women to listen and understand the things that men are worried and vulnerable about. Listening to Helping Joe and hearing Joe’s concerns is just crazy! The things he’s nervous about on dates are I think things that girls would have never cared about or even picked up on.
How is Joe doing now?
I think he’s doing great. I’m not in constant communication with him the way Tucker is. Because they live in the same city Austin, Texas and I’m in Albuquerque, NM. I think Joe would be the first to say that he’s benefited hugely from the advice that Tucker’s given him, that’s nudged his life in a way that’s centred more about dating now but it has all these positive side effects in all other areas of Joe’s life, socially, professionally, in terms of mental health, all that. And that’s one thing we emphasise in the Mate book. If guys get their dating act together, that kind of automatically makes the rest of their life a lot better.
So in essence it’s basically a self-help book for your whole life.
Exactly. And so in a sense we’re kind of dangling the carrot of sex and women and better dating, but there’s a subtext that we want young men in general to be more successful and get their lives together. Because at the moment they’re falling behind women in lots of ways. In terms of education, and employment, and mental health and lots of other stuff.
Well I think women would really appreciate having some more happy and successful guys around.
How long are you planning to keep going with the podcast for then?
I’d certainly like to keep going until guys start running out of questions. What we plan to do is have a lot more expert interviews in the future. So it will be not just these kind of questions, but we have a list of a couple of hundred people who I’d like us to interview.
Is there anything else that you want to say about the book?
I think for your audience who are maybe a little more focused on kind of physical aspects of sex. One distinctive thing that the book has is a lot of focus on things that make people sexually attractive that aren’t physical, that are more like mental traits and moral traits. Things like creativity and sense of humour and social intelligence and social popularity. And I think it’s important for guys to realise that sexual foreplay doesn’t start with kissing, it really starts with the whole life that they can project to a woman. And that if a woman sees like oh my god this guy is awesome and amazing in all these ways, that automatically starts the sexual ball rolling. Whereas if a guy is just conspicuously mediocre, he can have all the sexual skills in the world, but he just won’t be erotically compelling to women.